After the announcement in the previous chapter that the woman called Babylon, who is riding the monstrous dragon-beast in Revelation 17 has fallen, John sees a vision of a great multitude in heaven rejoicing and praising God for causing this religious woman to fall from power. She is a religious harlot and the mother of religious harlots. She is responsible for many false religious beliefs among the followers of Christ. All heaven rejoices because God has broken the strangle-hold this woman has had on true Christians and the whole world. This chapter is closely related to chapter 18, and the woman called Babylon who has in some sense fallen and lost the control she once had on true Christians and the entire world. A mighty angel calls on heaven, saints, apostles and prophets to rejoice because God has avenged them by causing her to fall.(Revelation 18:20; 19:2).
Next, this vision is added by way of enlargement and explanation of that great event. John sees heaven opened and Jesus Christ comes forth upon a white horse, as a token of His victory and triumph over his enemies. The white horse rider is Christ, for His name is said to be, the Word of God; and on His vesture another name was written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” For a thousand years each pope assumed this supreme title, but what he is only in pretense Christ is in reality. Following Christ on the white horse is His mighty army clothed in white linen as emblems of their victory, sanctity and holiness. This woman, the beast, and her followers are slain by the word of Christ, by the sword proceeding out of His mouth. According to the historical interpretation the design of this sublime and figurative vision is to show the ultimate downfall of papal religion and the triumph of original Christianity.
The first vision in this chapter is that of the inhabitants of heaven rejoicing and praising God. They are expressing their gratitude to God for causing the woman called Babylon to fall from her greatness, and persecuting power over both faithful Christians and the human race in general. She has deceived all the nations in the world. My first comment on this great joy in heaven over this woman whom God caused to fall is a point that I have made throughout this study. Permit me to state it again. If we do not know who this woman is and represents, who was a false prophet and deceived the whole world with her religious teachings, then the book of Revelation is a closed book. This woman is the subject of this book from Revelation 11 to 19. All Bible readers need to know who she is, when she lived,
what she stands for, in what sense has she fallen, and what she has done to deserve the wrath of God. Whoever she is she is a danger to the entire human race.
I have presented in this study a modified Historical Interpretation of the Revelation. I call it a modified Historical Interpretation because I believe the book is primarily concerned with only two of the most important historical events in church history and the history of the world. . The first was the conflict of primitive Christianity with Pagan Rome in the first three centuries of this era that weakened the church and caused much Christian blood to be shed. The other event was the great falling away from the original church predicted by the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8. It was this departure from New Testament Christianity that produced the Roman Catholic church. According to the Historical Interpretation, the Roman Catholic church was the first major denomination that broke away from the primitive church, and is therefore the first major denominational church in the history of the Christian religion. All other denominational churches originated out of her. This happened about 500 A.D., and it. adversely affected primitive Christianity for the next 1,000 years and continues to do so in the 21st century. It may surprise some that there was no Papal church before 400 or 500 A.D.
Since the conflicts with Pagan Rome and Papal Rome occurred within 500 years from the time John wrote the book of Revelation, this interpretation is in accord with the statement in Revelation 1:1, “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show his servants things which must shortly come to pass.” For the church to fall away from the truth by 500 A.D., that was “shortly” in terms of prophetical years. The conflicts of the original church with Pagan Rome and Papal Rome are the most important events in the history of Christianity. These two events occurred shortly, prophetically speaking, after John wrote the book of Revelation. In looking for things that shortly occurred from the time John wrote, I find it reasonable to include these two events as predicted in this book. It seems to me strange that such events would not be mentioned in the only book of prophecy in the New Testament. It was needful for the church to be warned by Christ of these coming troublous events and comforted by what God was going to do about it.
To those who reject the historical approach to the understanding of this book, I would suggest you consider an important
agreement that has been made on the identification of this woman.
Catholic scholars, Protestant scholars and many non-denominational scholars agree in identifying this woman. All agree that this woman is Rome, Italy. Even Catholic scholars admit this woman represents Rome. All agree that this woman is Rome because the Holy Spirit said so. Revelation 17:9 says of this woman, “Here is the mind which has wisdom the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.”
This woman lived in Rome. Her location is identified by the angel. The angel's interpretation is indeed the best key to identify this woman; and it is the best key to the book of Revelation; and it is the best clue to direct and conduct us through this intricate labyrinth. Historians, geographers and poets all speak of the city with the seven hills. In John's time all were acquainted with the seven famous hills of Rome on which the palaces of the Roman Emperors were located. It is evident therefore that the city in which this woman is located, is the city seated on seven mountains and must be Rome. I say unto you that no Bible commentator has a right to disagree with the interpretation of this angel.
Since an angel said the woman was a symbol of Rome, since the Catholic church admits she refers to Rome, since Protestant scholars and other scholars say this woman is Rome, it seems to me all interpretations should agree on this Bible fact.. This much of the mystery is solved. This drunk woman sitting on a powerful beast and directing its movements is the ruler whose capital city is the ancient city of Rome. While there is complete agreement that this woman is connected with Rome, there is a very definite disagreement whether she refers to Pagan Rome or Papal Rome. The Catholic church readily admits the woman stands for Rome, but insists she stands for Pagan Rome and not Papal Rome. However, Protestantism and others in the religious world maintain that this woman is a symbol of Papal Rome. The Protestants affirm the beast on which she sits, in the prophetic style, represents a dictatorial, idolatrous empire; and the Roman Empire was idolatrous under the Heathen emperors(43 B.C.-300 A.D.), and then ceased to be for some time under the Christian emperors (A.D. 300-500). Then they became idolatrous again under the Roman Pontiffs, and so have continued to this day. In view of the fact that an angel has identified this woman with the city of Rome, Roman Catholics, Protestants and all other followers of Christ have legitimate concern. There are over 400 million Roman Catholics in the world, and they prefer to believe that this woman represents Pagan Rome and not Catholic Rome. On the other hand, millions of Protestants and others believe that the greatest evidence of history points to the conclusion that this woman is
Papal Rome, and not Pagan Rome. . The Protestants argue that the Christian religion overcame religion of Paganism, not visa versa, , and the Christian religion became the official religion of the Pagan .Roman Empire. This woman ruled the Christian religion throughout the Dark Ages. All must examine the evidence and decide for themselves.
The second vision in this chapter shows a mighty heavenly army coming out of heaven, and all are dressed in robes of white and riding on white horses. Leading them is their Commander-in-Chief and what a general! He has all-seeing eyes, and a sword proceeds out of His mouth. He fights with words, not swords, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. Who is this mighty Leader? He is Jesus Christ the Son of God, prophet of God, High Priest and the Head of His church. This vision represents Christ and His heavenly army engaged in some great battle, but we are not told yet what the battle is about and who the enemy is.
However in verses 17-21 we are told the opposing army is led by the woman sitting on the beast, located on the seven hills of Rome. The two opposing armies are described in verses 19,20, “And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the white horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” As I have told you many times, if we do not know who this woman is riding this beast and called the false prophet, this is a closed book and cannot be understood. I think we have conclusively proven that this woman is either pagan Rome of the early centuries or Papal Rome of the Dark Ages. The Catholics maintain she is Pagan Rome, but the Protestant world, for the most part, confidently asserts she is Papal Rome.
I agree with those expositors who regard this vision of the white horse rider and His army as a symbolical description of the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. There have been several announcements of the end of the world, and this is another.This will be the last battle with the beast, the woman, and the armies she will be able to gather. This chapter describes her ultimate destruction. It appears to refer to the coming of Christ, and it will be the last struggle between good and evil, sin and righteousness. . Some think this holy, white-robed army will be composed of angels only because Jesus said
that He will come in the glory of His Father with His angels...(Matthew 16:1.). Also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, predicted that Christ would come with ten thousands of angels(Jude 14). Others think martyrs are included in this army who lost their lives in the struggle with this woman and the beast. Still others think that this holy army will include all redeemed people of earth as well as those who died as martyrs. One thing is certain; Christ on this white horse and called the Word of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords will destroy Satan's army, and the victory will be sudden and complete. Moreover, the angelic hosts will be present to rejoice.
I want to say one more thing about the beast and his rider who deceived all nations of the world in the time of her glory. We learn the astonishing fact that this woman and her beast will be on the earth at the time of the second coming of Christ. In verse 20 we are distinctly told that Christ will cast both the beast and this woman into the lake of fire. Thus the final battle will be between Pagan Rome or Papal Rome.
Since it is revealed that this woman will be on earth when Christ comes, this necessarily implies that the Lord's church will not be able to completely destroy this woman, or the form of religion she espouses or her religious influence in the world. Apparently, the most the church can do is to control her power and influence in the world. The church can prevent her deceiving all nations. There is but one thing that can control this woman, and that is the Bible, specially the 27 books of the New Testament. As long as we can have Bibles in the world, translated into all the languages of earth, freedom of religion, and the freedom to teach and practice God's word without fear of persecution we can exercise some control over this woman. For a thousand years the Bible was locked up in the Latin language and was not available to the world. Since the Protestant Reformation and the availability of Bibles in most all languages of the earth, Rome is no longer able to deceive the nations of the world. Merle D'aubigne, the French historian, was right when he said that the establishment of primitive Christianity in the first century, and its revival at the time of the Reformation in the 1500's are two of the greatest revolutions in the history of the world. Since the 1500's primitive Christianity has made a remarkable recovery thanks to the providence of God. It has not made a complete recovery, but it can be truly said that the knowledge of God covers the earth as the waters cover the sea.